New Bill Could Make Lunch Shaming a Thing of the Past
In an effort to ensure healthy meals for all students, Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced Senate Bill 250.
SB 250, otherwise known as the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act, would prohibit school officials from denying students lunch regardless of any unpaid school meal fees. The bill has been dubbed as a way to prevent school lunch shaming.
“We know that hunger undercuts a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school,” Hertzberg said. “We also know that embarrassing children in front of peers can destroy their self-confidence. That is why it’s important to stop school lunch shaming and create a different approach for tackling lunch fee debt.”
About 23 percent of California children live in poverty. Nearly 3.7 million of California’s 6.2 million students received free or reduced meals for the 2015-16 school year, according to data from the California Department of Education.
According to a national survey conducted in 2015 by the anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, 75 percent of teachers say their students come to school hungry and 59 percent say “a lot or most” of their students depend on school meals as a primary source of nutrition.
“The National School Lunch Program is an essential program, preventing hunger and securing opportunity one lunch tray at a time,” said Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which has sponsored the bill. “California’s school nutrition professionals are some of the best in the country. This bill will help clarify rules for them, families and for kids when school lunches go unpaid and remove opportunities for school children to be shamed or go hungry in the school environment.”